MUOS – a Vital Next Step for Narrowband Satellite Communications

All of us at Intelsat General congratulate our government colleagues at SPAWAR PMW-146 on the successful launch of MUOS-3. MUOS, the Mobile User Objective System, is a critical government-operated platform providing narrowband voice communications via satellite.

In development for over a decade, the MUOS system is a badly needed replacement for the legacy UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite system that is nearing the end of its operational life. MUOS greatly improves upon UFO by introducing WCDMA cellular technology to tactical satellite communications.

The UFO system has been oversubscribed for many years. Starting in 2011 the Integrated Waveform (IW), which doubled the number of calls possible per 25 kHz channel from five to ten, was implemented as an interim way to meet the capacity shortfall. Today, the MUOS satellites also contain legacy UHF payloads that provide a bridge capability to the legacy UFO system, helping to fulfill some of the excess demand and smoothing the transition to MUOS. However, the superior WCDMA technology provided by MUOS will not be available until the system is fully operational sometime in the 2016 time frame.

A consistent theme at SatCom Frontier is how vital the commercial space industry is to the DoD as it struggles to deal with the escalating demand for wideband satellite services. [Click here for a recent example.] In the case of UHF narrowband, it’s entirely appropriate for the government to own and operate this critical communication service used daily by our troops.

That said, Intelsat General has been a reliable partner helping the DoD power narrowband communications since the early days. We’ve partnered with the US Navy in providing UHF tactical communications to US and Allied forces since the launch of MARISAT in 1976. Just last month, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Leasat-5 launch, which continues to contribute UHF channels to the on-orbit resources for the warfighter.

And in 2012 Intelsat launched and continues to operate the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) UHF hosted payload on board our Intelsat-22 satellite. The IS-22 UHF payload provides critical coverage over the Middle East Area of Operations for the ADF.

There are multiple ways for the commercial space industry to support the warfighter, and its support of narrowband technology enhancement serves as a good example. As space becomes an increasingly competitive environment, commercial industry will introduce cutting edge SATCOM technology more quickly and lead the innovative charge ahead. There will also be cases like MUOS, where the government will operate the network with strong support delivered by its commercial partners.

In either scenario, a strong collaboration produces the best result for the government end user – and helps maintain U.S. preeminence in space.

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